The Media and The Mayhem: The Chauvin Trial Coverage Follows A Dangerous Pattern

Last week, a minumum of one juror was excused after he expressed fear he or his family could be attacked after a verdict. (Unexpectedly, another juror called the rioting necessary to progress the Dark Lives Matter movement). The man explained that his neighbors had to flee the region after the riots following the death of George Floyd. That anxiety was shared by different jurors. There happen to be protesters outside of the courthouse along with a new”autonomous zone” from the city that’s being chased by authorities groups.  Yet again, the news coverage is highly siloed and divergent in these coverage with vastly different images emerging from the town as it prepares for potential rioting. But it is the divergent coverage of the case itself that is my biggest concern.
The voir dire responses underline the concern over place in the situation and the decision not to shift the trial to a different city. There is clearly a fear among jurors there may be rioting if there’s an acquittal for Chauvin. The voir dire selection also magnifies the issue over the way the case has been covered in the press together with all the omission of crucial defense arguments and evidence. I think there was a valid basis for a test, however that can be a more powerful manslaughter compared to a murder case.  The trial provides us a much better view of this signs but the coverage thus far has been dangerously faulty in my opinion, as discussed below.
Here is the column:
Criminal trials have become such a predictable flashpoint for violence that cities make virtual fortresses around courthouses before juries are even seated.
The rioting that may adhere to a trial’s verdict is driven by deep-seated, long-lived racial issues. But, commentary by politicians and reporters can worsen these anxieties, creating misconceptions of their advantages and weaknesses of events. By way of example, prior to any investigation had been completed, Vice President Kamala Harris, then a United States senator, stated Chauvin clearly”murdered” Floyd, while others insisted that the crime was open and shut.
Trials, however, are predicated on the signs and elements of crimes. They are made to separate the substance from the mythical. A fantastic case in point is that the shooting of Michael Brown at Ferguson, Mo., at 2014, which triggered times of rioting. The shooting was broadly referred to as murder by federal figures and commentators. To this day, due to exceptionally inaccurate media coverage, pundits and protesters still refer to Brown holding up his hands and begging,”Don’t shoot!” On the other hand, the officers involved were never billed despite extended, repeated state and federal investigations that found no criminal culpability. Indeed, the Obama Justice Department along with other investigations refuted the hands up, don’t shoot claim.
Chauvin’s trial includes a number of the exact problematic elements of incomplete or distorted coverage and commentary. It clearly is much more powerful compared to the Michael Brown case — and you cannot overestimate the effects of the videotape of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost 10 minutes as Floyd pleads”I can’t breathe.” The video will be seared into the heads of many, sparking anger and disgust. Ironically, I see cases from the perspective of a longtime defense attorney, however this one has protection points that are seldom reported but may prove critical in this trial.
The four officers charged — Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao — responded to a call alleging that Floyd passed counterfeit money. The very first big defense point was recorded on body-camera video as Lane spoke to Floyd, sitting at a parked SUV. After Floyd refused to display his palms , Lane pulled his gun and shouted at Floyd to demonstrate his hands. After Floyd responded,”Please don’t shoot me, man,” Lane put his gun away and said,”I am not shooting , man.”
Floyd is then viewed staggering as he is transferred into a police cruiser. He admitted he had been”hooping,” or taking medication. Then he resisted getting to the cruiser, stating he was claustrophobic and couldn’t breathe. Lane is heard that offer to sit together with him, roll the windows down and turn on the air conditioning. A struggle then led to Floyd around the floor, together with Chauvin kneeling on his neck. As shocking as the video picture isalso, Chauvin is likely to cite Minneapolis police training material that clarifies such restraint to get an uncooperative suspect.
The largest defense point will come from authorized autopsy and toxicology reports. The autopsy didn’t cite restraint as the origin of the death, instead mentioning”cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law police officer(s).” Mr. Floyd had underlying health issues including coronary heart disease and hypertensive heart disease”
The autopsy says that Floyd’d fentanyl and methamphetamine in his approach. If he were found dead at home alone & no other obvious cause, this might be okay to predict an OD [overdose]. Deaths have been licensed w/levels of 3″
The toxicology report Floyd’s blood amplifies there, stating:”In deaths from fentanyl, blood concentrations are variable and have been reported as low as ng/ml.” Floyd’s blood showed almost four times that amount. There is palpable fear that even discussing such countervailing defense problems will cause accusations of being a racist or an apologist for police brutality. Because of this, the majority of these particulars are often abbreviated from coverage, or just obliquely referenced.
There is both a legal and a political reason Chauvin is going to trial : The”aiding and abetting” charges of these other officers have been called on the Chauvin’s alleged crime of murder or manslaughter. The case against Chauvin is also the strongest and there’s considerable basis for criminal charges owing to his failure to respond to Floyd’s health catastrophe. Lane, a new officer, is heard at a point suggesting they move Floyd since he may be experiencing”excited delirium. Chauvin answers:”Only leave him” Conversely, Lane includes a more powerful case for acquittal, which likely would inflame passions without a prior certainty of Chauvin.
Past cases also demonstrate that the threat of pushing for higher-range murder fees, which might satisfy public demands but limiting the effect of acquittals. Such overcharging from the George Zimmerman case, focusing on second-degree murder, decreased the more powerful case for manslaughter. Instead of significant time on a lesser cost, Zimmerman’s prosecutors got nothing.
Chauvin’s prosecutors pushed to get a second-degree murder charge along with manslaughter. But, clearly worried about the sharp-cliff impact of acquittal, they’re urging the trial conducted to add a lesser fated murder charge. That requires proving Chauvin was guilty of”perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind”
In case Chauvin is acquitted of murder, most are likely to be disappointed by a second-degree manslaughter conviction carrying a presumptive sentence of 41 months to 57 months, rather than a sentence of up to 15 years. The anger is likely to be higher if they were never told of their defense arguments and proof. Chauvin’s trial indicates exactly the identical profile as beyond cases using a mixture of increased charges and increased expectations in what’s a challenging prosecution case. Chauvin could very well be convicted of murder but, if not, the imperfect commentary and coverage will only increase the consequent unrest.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You are able to find his updates online @JonathanTurley.
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